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Paleoseismological analysis of the Rurrand fault near Jülich, Roer Valley graben, Germany: Coseismic or aseismic faulting history?

  • K. Vanneste (a1) and K. Verbeeck (a1)

Abstract

A first trench has been excavated for paleoseismological analysis in the German part of the Roer Valley graben, which has experienced several historical earthquakes with a maximum intensity up to VIII on the MSK-scale.The trench has exposed the Rurrand fault as a complex fault zone with at least five separate, SW-dipping, normal fault strands displacing an early Pleistocene terrace of the Rhine river by more than 7 m. The major part of the observed deformation was produced during or after deposition of an overlying unit of stratified loess of middle Weichselian to probably Saalian age. The faulting history is shown to be episodic, with different fault strands active at different times. Growth faulting that would be indicative of continuous, aseismic fault motion has not been observed. Our stratigraphic control is not sufficient to constrain the timing and to provide evidence of the coseismic nature for each observed fault displacement. However, two units of structureless, gravelly loess are interpreted as the result of extensive solifluction triggered by two large surface-rupturing events. This is suggested by the position of these units, which is controlled by the main faults, and by their remarkably young age (< 400 cal. BC), indicated by radiocarbon and OSL datings and by the presence of historic brick fragments. At least two faults show moderate activity that is even younger. Our interpretation is not in agreement with earlier hypotheses that ongoing vertical movements of circa 1 mm/a in the German part of the Lower Rhine graben are the result of aseismic fault creep, but is in line with the results of similar investigations on the southwestern border fault of the Roer Valley Graben in Belgium, which demonstrates the need for further paleoseismological research in this region. The Rurrand fault is presently experiencing aseismic slip on its superficial portion, induced by extensive groundwater lowering for mining purposes. This ongoing deformation seems to be expressed in the trench as diffuse bundles of anastomosing cracks extending up to, and in some cases even into the plough zone, rather than as sharp fault planes which are typical of older, tectonic fault movements.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Royal Observatory of Belgium, Ringlaan 3, B-l 180 Brussel, Belgium, tel. +32-2-3730280 / fax +32-2-3730339, email: kris.vanneste(S)oma.be

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Keywords

Paleoseismological analysis of the Rurrand fault near Jülich, Roer Valley graben, Germany: Coseismic or aseismic faulting history?

  • K. Vanneste (a1) and K. Verbeeck (a1)

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